With serene, spa-like interiors, the Early Medical Centre is the antithesis of what one often expects when entering a medical facility. And that is the point. Rather than a sterile space void of personality, the Singapore-based screening and preventative health-care clinic — which blends traditional wellness approaches with advanced scientific technologies and more contemporary treatment methods — desired a setting that promoted transparency and a sensitivity to the patient experience.
To translate its concept into physical form, the clinic enlisted Gabriel Tan and his team at local design agency Studio Antimatter, which specializes in interiors that are sensorial and emotional. As this was the first healthcare project for the firm, Tan consulted with multidisciplinary practice FARM, which helped form research surveys and focus groups to identify who exactly uses preventative care and what type of services they look for; Tan’s own team then investigated how design could play a positive role in alleviating the negative emotions and psychology frequently associated with visiting a medical centre.
Based on the complementary results, and with input from the client, Antimatter formulated a floor plan that centred around a patient-forward circulatory “journey” that supported Early’s idea of transparency. Tan communicated this intention by fronting the clinic — which took over four units that used to house retail and restaurant spaces in a single-level volume attached to a seven-storey building — with a full-height glass facade. The previous tenants had exterior spaces that were not necessary to the clinic; these were absorbed into the interior by pushing out the glazing. “One should have full clarity of one’s health and well-being in order to make informed decisions,” says Tan, equating the use of glass to the clinic’s ethos.
Inside, two existing structural columns became anchor points for a circular path that leads visitors from the reception desk and a semi-private “discussion area” around to the consultation and exam rooms (for X-rays, CT scans, mammograms and more) on the perimeter; the change rooms and spaces for less invasive procedures like biometrics, audiometry and tonometry are centrally located behind reception. The deliberately wide corridors and rounded-off corners and volumes contribute to the sense of openness, while a cove ceiling conceals the mechanics and electrical components.
“The varying drop heights of the cove ceiling also work as a design element to visually zone each functional space,” says Tan. “They also help to make the space feel more personal and intimate.” Based on Antimatter’s research (combined with FARM’s data), the space was bathed in a palette of pastels. “Gentle gradients of soft, warm colours are known to evoke a soothing effect and are able to lower a person’s anxiety,” says Tan of the peachy shades, sandy beiges and light grey tones used on the walls, furniture, and other accents. Calm and tranquil, the design of the healing space is a remedy in and of itself.